If you’ve been around the block these past few weeks, you’ll have heard the furore over microtransactions, loot boxes, and pay-to-win scandals in some of the most high-profile AAA titles to launch this year. The issue drew such ire from the gaming community that Electronic Arts now holds the world record for most downvotes on Reddit in the site’s history.
With organisations like the ESRB claiming that loot boxes aren’t gambling, EA’s reluctance to remove microtransactions, and numerous announcements by governments around the world that they’ll be investigating the issue, it’s become clear that there’s no single body holding the industry to account.
Enter the National Committee for Games Policy (NCGP), a US-based non-profit that seeks to become a regulatory body for the industry.
According to the organisation’s press release, the NCGP is a coalition of industry leaders and experts, inspired into existence by the “expansion of lootcrate economies”, as well as by their concerns over gambling and the addicting qualities of video games. The main aim, as the presser states, is to “give policy makers the information they need to make informed decisions”. The group claims they have political connections to make sure this information is made available to the right people.
The NCGP is split into three parts. The first is the committee itself, which works like a “public policy think tank” to give input to government and lawmakers. The organisation takes on no policy or opinion of its own – it merely collates and presents opinions from its committee members and the results of research. The second part is called “ITK”, a secondary think tank that is privately funded. The way this is set out in the press release is confusing, but I believe that the ITK is part of the foundation of the NCGP, even though they appear to do the same thing. Input and research done by the ITK informs the NCGP.
Then there’s the SRO, or Self Regulatory Organization. This is the part of the NCGP that aims to help self-regulate the industry. In the NCGP’s own words, the SRO’s purpose is “to protect consumers from unscrupulous video game companies by investigating and bringing legal action against those companies that have damaged the public consciousness in some way, whether mental or physical”. This seems to indicate that the SRO might get involved in court cases defending consumers or representing the interests of employees inside game studios or publishers. The unit also promises to establish a whistleblower center to allow employees working in the industry to notify authorities about misconduct from their employers.
It’ll be interesting to see how this movement evolves and where its future lies. Members currently do not have to reveal their identities, and many have chosen to keep it that way for now (out of 20 members, only four have altered their profiles with personal information). The NCGP also has affiliated members whose identities are also hidden. These could be other companies eager to have themselves represented by the organisation, or media companies that want to be involved. Concerns regarding the secrecy (which have been raised by those who’ve thus far covered the organisation’s birth) have already been addressed by the NCGP in a press statement addressed to Forbes.
Who’s bankrolling them is the biggest question that’s still left unanswered. Their benefactors are anonymous.
I’m wary of self-appointed regulatory bodies crawling out of the woodwork after so much controversy, but the NCGP currently seems harmless and eager to help the gaming community and the industry become better. It’s better than no protection at all, right?